Sunday, June 29, 2008

Olivier Capparos/Lionel Marchetti - Livre des Morts (entr'acte)

I'm not so sure how seriously to take the whole "Book of the Dead" thing, especially when you see the photo of Marchetti on the entr'acte site, but listened through as a series of quasi-cinematic episodes, there's a good amount to enjoy here. There's a bit of bombast--not surprising, given the subject--but much of it works well despite that, pretty solid soundscaping throughout.

David Papapostolou - One and Two (CDR)

Three solo pieces, acoustic guitar (often prepared) on each, soprano sax and cello overlaid on two of them. Quiet, considered, very naturally flowing. Papapostolou retains a reasonable amount of "traditional" sound from each but manages to do so without accreting conceptual baggage. An initial sensation of slightness grows more engrossing on each listen. Nice work indeed. David's blog

Daniel Jones/David Papapostolou - Leaving Room (Adjacent)

The first release on Papapostolou's Adjacent label finds him (mixing desk feedback, computer with pickup) joined by Daniel Jones (turntables, dulcimer, acoustic guitar). Less immediately approachable than the above but maybe even a little more satisfying. Again, excellent restraint; when things bubble to the surface, there seems to be a reason for it. Flutters, hums, clicks and scrapes, all laid out calmly with an ear for textural contrast and a fine sense of sequencing. Really good work, don't let it pass you by.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Penrose tiling. Can't get enough of it.

wiki entry

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Such a great, strong record, live at NYU 3/22/69. "Broken Shadows" just tumbles out on the listener, the gorgeous dirge repeated by the players acting as a well for the solos that emerge and recede back in more than act as "solos". Stunning, heart-rending. Just as extraordinary, the theme from "Comme il Faut", launched out there, equal parts bravado and melancholy, Haden so probing, Cherry fresh in from his explorations into dozens of musical cultures, feeding them into the harmolodics, Redman so soulful, Ornette floating of his very best. As if that wasn't enough, we get s rousing performance of "Song for Che" to begin Side Two, still one of the loveliest melodic lines I know. The final two pieces, "Space Jungle" and "Trouble in the East" are a bit more frenetic and jumbled, still quite enjoyable with many of Cherry's own eastern influences putting in an appearance. All in all, one of my favorite Ornette recordings, never issued on disc as far as I know. There's a kind of wooliness, a sizzle around the edges of something not quite honed to perfection yet but all the more exciting in its unpolished state.

Not released by Columbia until 1982, "Broken Shadows" consists of recordings from the "Science Fiction" sessions and two outliers with the surprising presence of Jim Hall and Cedar Walton (at that point, only the second time Ornette had recorded with piano, if I'm not mistaken), as well as singer Webster Armstrong. Hit and miss, though the hits, "Broken Shadows" and "Elizabeth", both dirges, are incredible. First appearance of "Happy House", I believe (never a favorite Ornette tune of mine). Those two with Hall et. al. are kinda strange (there's a woodwind section as well), weird amalgams, slightly reminiscent of Art Ensemble forays like "Certain Blacks". Actually, "Is It Forever?" has some general similarities with that odd Abrams piece on "Things to Come from Those Now Gone", "How Are You?"

I've written about this before any number of times, but what the hell.

There I was, 17 years old, in the spring of my senior year in high school (1972), reading an interview with Don Van Vliet in Rolling Stone (back, young 'uns, when Rolling Stone was largely a music-oriented paper not a fashionista rag). During its course, he was asked to name his favorite musician and said, "Ornette Coleman". "Hmmm," says I. Since CB was about my favorite musician at that time, I figured I should take his word seriously. As it happened, Columbia was promoting "Science Fiction" reasonably well, enough so that I had some vague notion of its existence (I think there might have been ads, with pics, in Rolling Stone itself). So I trundled down to Recordland in downtown Poughkeepsie and picked it up, my very first jazz album.

Rather a dive into the deep end of the pool. I liked it immediately, though I daresay it took a year or two before I semi-understood what was going on. I do remember spending a good bit of that summer, while I was washing dishes at the Springhouse on Block Island, humming and whistling "Law Years" (along with much of "Waka Jawaka", but we won't go into that). It's still one of my very favorite jazz recordings. I realize there's an immense amount of nostalgia clinging to my perception of it but, listened to as objectively as I can--dammit, it still kicks monster butt.

Before I forget, I'd love to get any recommendations on Asha Puthli recordings. I've looked around in stores a bit but it's real hard to get any sense from the CD packaging (plus I'm never quite sure if she and Asha Bothle are the same never know with anglicizations of Hindi). I saw her with Henry Threadgill at BAM around 1987--pretty great. Absolutely love her here; there's really nothing else like her two songs (is there?). How horn-like her voice is!

So yeah, my first real taste of jazz. Blackwell killed me. Haden demolished me. The themes from "What Reason Could I Give", "All My Life" and "Law Years" were so moving. Cherry! His solo on "Civilization Day"! Then Ornette comes in for his first isolated playing on the record...Whole worlds opened. The way that piece just cascades right into "Street Woman" with its lovely descending theme (Haden furious on this one). And goddam Cherry again--such clarity. The intense psychedelia of the title track with David Henderson and the crying baby. (OK, I could do without the bible reference...) "Rock the Clock" dates, yes, but c'mon, Haden's wah-wah is still some amount of fun. "All My Life"--ah, just melts me; one of the sexiest vocals I know. And "Law Years", still just about a perfect jazz piece for me. Haden's awesomely deep solo, Ornette soaring and Blackwell...just so cool, so unfussy, so damn rhythmic, so musical. He's just as amazing on the last track, "The Jungle Is a Skyscraper". Set my personal standard for jazz drumming, right here. And Redman's guttural roar...

Still does it for me. Now I realize, objectively, that the odds of my happening on what would generally be considered one of the finest examples of modern jazz on my very first plunge are virtually nil. I've rarely if ever seen "Science Fiction" show up on anyone's "Top X" jazz recordings aside from my own, but tough. It's there, and there it'll likely stay.

Monday, June 23, 2008

While in the gift shop at the Morgan on Saturday, Carol brought to my attention a book of poems. The painting used for the cover was by Albert York, a favorite of hers since being introduced to him long ago by a college art professor. I'd never heard of him though, doing some google searching, there's at least one painting of his, a bucolic scene featuring a nude woman and a skeleton, that I'd seen before somewhere. Apparently he's something of a recluse and, for his work and his habits, has garnered comparisons to Albert Pinkham Ryder. My first reaction on seeing the still life pictured here was that it reminded me of Morandi--something akin in the muted colors and the naive-but-perfect placement of the objects. I like guys like this who, while obviously aware of contemporary trends, remain stubbornly outside that scene, working as honestly as they can.

Some of his pieces remind me of Puvis de Chavannes as well, another under-appreciated painter. Russell Chatham too, the fellow responsible for most of the covers of Jim Harrison novels. York is obscure enough to lack a wiki entry, though he seems to be well represented at several galleries. Interesting work, glad I found him.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Went to see the Philip Guston drawing show at the Morgan Library yesterday. I've never been really taken with his work, either before or after his shift from abstraction to realism though I'd preferred the former and this show cemented that opinion. His line rubs me the wrong way; I was trying to capture it in a phrase and the best I could do was "nervous globularity".

It's too itchy for my taste and maybe too impositional in some sense. But there were several lovely pieces in the room devoted to his work through about 1967, including a few severely "limited" ones (single or double lines, single smudges, etc.) and a striking gouache (I think) of an open book, one of hundreds of that subject, dirty red on dirtier blue.

The second room contained drawings from his later years and, as much trouble as I had with many of the earlier works, that trouble was, as it always has been, greatly compounded with the "realist" ones. Realist in the sense of cartoon-y, I'm afraid. I kept hitting on R Crumb, a fine enough illustrator but, shall we say, not a graphic equivalent of Feldman (one could readily understand the composer's anger at Guston's shift). There were a couple of exceptions, including a poignant "Smoking in Bed" but by and large I found a kind of surrealist banality and really a lack of good drawing. Carol, my gallery companion, wondered if there was some degree of mental deterioration at play and if we weren't seeing documentation of that; perhaps--I don't know his story very well at all.


I hadn't been to the Morgan for many years, certainly not since the large addition to the grounds had been built. There was a wonderful exhibition from their collection of illuminated manuscripts, focusing on hunting and trapping scenes from a southern French volume dating from about 1407. Really beautiful work.

The Morgan also has a small painting collection, my personal favorite being this gorgeous Hans Memling:


Recent arrivals

Alan Licht/Aki Onda - Everydays (Family Vineyard)
Korber/Moslang/Chulkil/Muller/Yukie/Kahn/Sangtae/Hankil/Joonyang/Miryung - Signal to Noise, vol. 6 (For 4 Ears)
Martin Baumgartner - Shoots Huft (For 4 Ears)
Olivier Capparos/Lionel Marchetti - Livre des morts (entr'acte)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No subject

No image

No taste

No beauty

No message

No talent

No technique

No idea

No intention

No art

No feeling

No black

No white (no and)

--John Cage, 1953

Monday, June 16, 2008

Taumaturgia is a new, anti-copyright label out of Galicia, Spain (not far from where we might be residing in a decade or so), whose first three releases run something of a wide gamut.

Volantè - s/t

Volantè is Miguel Prado (guitar, circular saw), Roberto Mallo (Alto sax), Raúl Garcia (electric violin) and Rafael Mallo (drums, percussion), here serving up some 76 minutes of harsh noise with a free improv tinge, kind of like an extreme Emanem session. A little too scratchy/squealy for my taste (especially the alto, which wears thin) and longer than it needs to be. Gels here and there in a rough, industrial kind of feel, but not often enough, though the last track begins to smoke.

Roberto Mallo - Vribación

Solo drums, six tracks. Not really "avant" in the sense of anything post-1970 or so (for the most part--there are a couple of "lower case" moments), just six solid drum tracks, the emphasis on the toms and lower-pitched sounds. As with something like the Garbarek-y disc from a little while back, I don't really understand the larger point of this kind of exercise, but what Mallo seeks to do, he does very well, very precisely but with nice feeling. Sometimes I was reminded of Don Moye, other times Roy Brooks.

Josetxo Grieta - sonrisas vendo - ¿Dónde nos llevan?

For this occasion, the band consists of Josetxo Anitua and Mattin, playing guitars, electronics and other noise-emitters. I'm probably finding myself in increasingly diminishing company, but dammit, I still get something of a kick from this sort of thing. I found myself thinking, if I were in an adjacent room in a cellar somewhere hearing this clatter and wail, a smile would cross my face; "They're clearly enjoying themselves in there." A mere 16 minutes (probably a good idea) of audience noise, idle guitar strumming, mumbling, screaming, crooning, extreme raucous noise, etc. Fun!

As stated above, this is an anti-copyright organization so, despite the fact that the actual discs in question appear to have been issued in limited editions of 100, you may freely sample the wares for yourself at their site

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jeez, always one of my favorite album covers and this dinky thing is the only image I can find. Apparently, the CD reissue solarized the photograph quite a bit and added (unnecessarily) some typographics, resulting in this:

Loses all the atmospherics of the original, compromises the gravitas.

Anyway, I've been gradually playing through my Ornette vinyl. Nothing to say that hasn't been said thousands of times about most of the early recordings as well as Prime Time and later (I more or less lost interest after the "Naked Lunch" soundtrack, I've been told unfairly) so I'll concentrate on my favorite period which begins with this recording and goes up through about 1971.

re: the Town Hall Concert (1962)--I wonder what contemporary admirers from the avant classical world like La Monte Young made of Coleman's writing for strings. In the context of the time, it was pretty old-fashioned, after all, not too mention somewhat romantic. To me, it's not a very far cry from the essence of his jazz work of the time but I get the impression the latter went down more smoothly than the "classical" writing among the contemporary cognoscenti. But I'm just guessing--I don't recall ever reading any commentary from those quarters. Anyone? In any case, "Sadness", as performed here still stands out as one of Ornette's most stirring works, just beautiful.

I'm in the camp that never had a problem with Denardo Coleman, at least as a prepubescent. Even more so in retrospect, it's a fine idea, something entirely in keeping with other non-professional movements of around the same time (like some portion of the Scratch Orchestra), a notion perhaps also applicable to Ornette's own early trumpet and violin work, each featured here.

(Another dinkified image) I guess this has seen the light of day on disc; I have the Lotus LP that appeared in '80. From February, 1968 in Rome (according to discographies I've see--the album says 1967) with Izenzon, Haden and Blackwell. A good, rather loose set (Lonely Woman, Monsieur le Prince, Forgotten Children, Buddah [sic] Blues)--I enjoy Ornette with two bassists and percussion, though I've always found Izenzon and Haden to be very opposite kind of musicians, mostly with regard to the former's relative "thinness" of sound and the latter's resonant girth; makes for good tension here. Fine trumpet from Ornette on "Forgotten Children" and a rare (?) example of his shenai work on the last track. Did he introduce Redman to that instrument or vice versa?

Love this recording. For me, this is the one where Ornette's music really takes the step into what was my favorite period of his, even more so that the great early work. Redman's a big part of getting to that sound, the perfect, earthy foil for Ornette's spiraling tone. Beautiful, full sound from all, including Denardo.

See, that's what I call an album cover. Didn't realize until just now, looking over a discography, that this (and "New York Is Now!, which I have on CD) was recorded a bit before "Ornette at 12"; I'd always thought it came afterwards. Ornette's one date with Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison and the Coltrane rhythm section meshes just fine. Another muscular recording with a thick, juicy sound. Redman's ferocious on "Airborne", some of his finest vocalized playing on record. Doesn't get talked about enough.

More next time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I used to talk about the new eating. One time Terry Riley said, "Yeah, even the cooks'll get rebellious. We'll walk into a hamburger stand and order something to eat. In a few minutes the cook'll give us some salt. Just salt. Then one of us will say, 'What? Is this all?' And the cook'll answer, 'Whatsamatter, dontcha like static eating?'"

- La Monte Young,
Tulane Drama Review
Winter 1965

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rhodri Davies/David Lacey/Dennis McNulty - Poor Trade (Cathnor)

Sometimes, there's a divide between sheer beauty of sound and underlying structure and in large part, this release demonstrates that. While not drones per se, the three pieces are each continuous soundscapes generated by harp, percussion and electronics and the colors heard are quite lovely and fascinating. But, perhaps akin to some of the music issued on Four4Ears recently, I don't hear too much in the way of backbone and the sounds aren't "airy" enough not to require it. There's often a pulse and, while at first blush I found that attractive, over the course of (especially) the longest track, it began to wear on me, somehow seeming to have little purpose aside from an unnecessary handrail. This is all very vague, I realize, but I'm trying to describe the swings I had back and forth between enjoyably bathing in the sonics and being frustrated at my inability to find solid conceptual ground. The two shorter (11-12 minute) tracks work better, managing to at least imply some kind of membrane beneath the hums. Not bad by any means but frustrating. It reinforces that, for myself, deep structure is what makes a music memorable, less so attractive sounds. But perhaps I'm missing something....Cathnor

David Lacey/Paul Vogel - The British Isles (homefront)

Coincidentally, on the same day as I received the above, this modestly titled disc also appeared in the mailbox, and it's a beaut. Due to Lacey showing up on both as well as their temporal proximity re: my ears, it's tough not to (unfairly) compare them. It's too simple to differentiate in terms of structure by saying that one's a non-stop stream while the other is segmented in various ways, thus the placement of sounds becomes inherently part of the structure, but....there's something to that. The balance achieved between types of sound (timbre, dynamics, texture, atmospherics) and how they're placed is very convincing, forming a very solid skeleton, though not an obvious one. Rhythms occur, but they don't push and they're rough around the edges. One of the better releases I've heard this year.

If homefront has a page (or if there's an image around for this one) I can't find it but they're available from erstdist

[Hey, here comes a cover image right now....]

Salvatore Dellaria/Adam Sonderberg - Untitled -> Ongoing

Something of an outlier. Dellaria and Sonderberg, both members of the very fine Dropp Ensemble, have put together fifteen "studies" culled from weekly get-togethers spanning 2007 & 2008. Essentially, these are bits of raw material from which they may or may not create "finished" compositions in the future. The styles thus spanned are vast, from the furious poundings of "Pulse" or "Drums" to field recordings to hums to crackles, etc.; brutally raw ("No-input mixing desk") to romantically delicate ("Piano"). It poses as nothing more than a sketchbook and, approached as such, it's a helluva lot of fun; not a weak drawing in the bunch. Best, you can hear for yourselves here

A meme going around (I found it at Caleb Deupree's fine blog):

The top 100 or so books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users. Bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish.

[If blogspot has underlining capability, I don't see it--suffice it to say that some of the below were read for school, maybe five or six. The Iliad, Odyssey and the Aenied stand out to me as things I should really get to.)

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: The life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes: A memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: A true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New CD player in place today (NAD C515BEE).

Had to initiate it properly, natch. Damn, does this sound great. Hadn't put it on in a while; will likely spoil me for listening to anything else for the next few days.

Sooooo good.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Anthony Patera/David Brown/Sean Baxter - Interference (

Prepared piano, prepared guitar and drums, a nice arrangement of instruments. Very...clatter-y. Almost sounds like a group of mbiras with serious spider-webbing in the resonators, muting the metallic nature of the bars with cottony strands. A little same-y over the long haul (five track, all occupying similar territory), but enjoyable enough getting there. On Oh, and nifty packaging:

John Clair/Jed Shahar - Tennis (Fenimore)

Strong set from this local duo, ranging from rough industrial dronage ("car chase") to gossamer thin tones over ambient noise and chatter ("silver leaf linden"), and family arguments ("drop and drag"). On these first three tracks, I enjoyed the sonics very much but found myself wanting to hear a bit more structural rigor (as difficult as that is to define in this area). The last track delivers it--it's again essentially a rough drone, but the depth of field and the intermittent emergences of buzzes and ratchetings outside of the general drone provide the kind of aural scaffolding I was hoping for. Excellent piece, good, solid release. fenimore

Ecstasy Mule - Songs of Love & Redemption (Batterrie)

Not my cuppa, particularly, but if you're into Chadbourne-tinged, folk/blues weirdness with an urban-noise edge, Ecstasy Mule (Len37 and Casey G--Kurt?) will go down smoothly, the banjos, mandolins and drawled/moaned vocals nesting in nicely amidst the subway squalor.

Ecstasy Mule - Contemplates Hunting and Drinking When the Rainbow is Enuf (Batterrie)

Not so dissimilar, except revolving around read newspaper clippings relating to the disc's title, that is hunting accidents, etc., spoken over guitar noise, four mixes of more or less the same piece. The noise is OK; I could do without the recitation.
Both available from SquidCo

Emmanuel Mieville/Eric Cordier - Dispositif: Canal Saint-Martin (Xing Wu)

A sound portrait of the Centre d'Animation Jemmapes in Paris, created by the deployment of some 30 microphones all around the structure (concert hall, dance studios, offices, outside, etc.) then mixed live by Mieville & Cordier with some additional input from them via field recordings and computer. Wonderful stuff with an enormous range of sound (a favorite being something halfway between low brass and a very squeaky door). Great density. There are two shorter remixes, one by each musician (12&14 minutes as opposed to the 37-minute main piece) which, though fine, might be unnecessary as far as the disc as a while goes, but that's a quibble. Beautiful recording!

Jean-Luc Guionnet/Seijiro Murayama - Le Bruit du Toit (Xing Wu)

Guionnet's alto integrates better, for me, with percussion than those examples I've heard with electronics. I see Murayama was on a Fushitsusha album (self-titled, 1990, PSF, but I get those confused), so it's possible I've heard him before, but whatever, he's pretty impressive here, restrained enough, filling up the space with imagination and subtlety. This took a couple of listens to grow on me, but grow it did, especially the first of the two tracks. Xing Wu. Also available, I believe, via erst dist


Read Branden Joseph's "Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts after Cage". Decent read, interesting to me for all the documentation on NYC activity from about 1958-65, how people were dealing with the post-Cage world in music (including Cardew), a tough task and, in cases like the Conrad/Young affair, sadly with careerist, possessive overtones. It did make me want to check out Conrad's early work more closely than I have, including his films (especially 'Flicker', which I've never seen). Pretty good read, a little over-academic in the constant post-modern references.